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To vlemma tou Odyssea
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Reviews & Ratings for
Ulysses' Gaze More at IMDbPro »To vlemma tou Odyssea (original title)

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Director A.'s Odyssey was this viewer's Golgotha

Author: leoperu from Czech Republic
27 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not unlike Ulysses on his way to Ithaca or director A. witnessing decay and death in the native Balkans, the viewer of this film, too, must face many a pitfall. It's mostly mannerisms of a director to whom unpretentious realism seems to reek of vulgarity. Landscapes in the mist. Bleak city streets. Derelict interiors. Exiles. A lot of Weltschmerz. An aging intellectual, played by an international star, sporting a lot of Weltschmerz. A fiery young beauty. Bombastic dialogues/monologues from an existentialist stage play. Zombie-like extras assembling into strange patterns. A lot of symbols. Fake Ithaca. A huge lot of Weltschmerz.

I liked the music of Eleni Karaindrou, the Bucharest flashback and images of stone Lenin. In my opinion, the movie itself resembles this monumental statue, self-important idol once "alive" but now - being sold to an Euro snob - cut to pieces and heading towards oblivion.

Famous Polish actor Wojciech Pszoniak got an uncredited role, and famous Czech photographer Josef Koudelka simultaneously took b+w photos of the film's locations which I hereby strongly recommend. Believe me, they are light years ahead.

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Almost a masterpiece

Author: Manos from Greece
6 April 2010

This is truly an enchanting film about self-exploration, by the great auteur Angelopoulos.

The movie is poetic, melancholic and lyrical (as expected from Angelopoulos), full of superb cinematography. The scenes at the start, the Lenin statue in the boat, the Sarajevo scenes (orchestra and mist scenes), the old lady left alone in the town square, the family celebrating the new year...are works of pure art themselves.

Can't believe it lost to Underground.

I am not giving it 10/10 because of the not up-to-par acting of Keitel and Karaindrou always regurgitating the same piece of melodramatic music again and again throughout Angelopoulos' films.

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The first thing God created was the journey, then came doubt, and nostalgia.

Author: lastliberal from United States
15 September 2009

An acquaintance today bemoaned the lack of historical knowledge that Americans have in their own history and government. To expect them to have a knowledge of European history, particularly Greek and Balkan history would be ludicrous. That knowledge of history would serve you well as you try to understand the work of Theodoros Angelopoulos. a director on a par with Fellini, and Kurosawa, and Bergman.

Angelopoulos likes the long, slow shots that give you time to reflect on what you are seeing. Those that are impatient have difficulty with this, but those who appreciate great cinema will luxuriate in the process.

Winning two awards at Cannes, Angelopoulos was disappointed he did not win the Golden Palm. 1996 was a great year for film, and he did very well with this one despite that.

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Not easily accessible but great post-modernist film

Author: LeesGaze from Phoenix, Arizona
29 October 1999

There are many self references to the director's other films, great modern greek poets, balkan history, and ancient greek thought and literature. The more you know the more you get out. I had some knowledge of some of these areas but the film moved me to read three modern greek poets and a book about the other films of this director. I have to be satisfied with the book because I can't seem to find the videos.

The long poetic shots, the surrealism, and Keitel's address at the end will remain with me forever. One of the greatest pieces of art.

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A feast for the senses.

Author: L. Hamm from Keene, NH, USA
28 December 1998

I first saw this movie when it was aired on a local public television station at midnight. I was exhausted but the movie was so intriguing that I could not fall asleep. Director Angelopolous' use of a single camera per scene are very innovative. Excellent work, too, by Harvey Keitel.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: spaamvessel from United States
20 November 2005

I found this film very surreal. I don't know the history behind the story but I was not bored. When it was over I felt slowly transported to another time and place. The scene in the fog hit me in a very unusual way.

This is not the film for someone who wants a smash boom, shoot 'em up thriller. I has a steady development and not the pace of an action film. If you enjoy films that are more cognitive you might like this one.

Harvey Keitel does a lot of good films. He appears to choose projects that have interesting themes.

I really liked it.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Man's search for his lost family and homeland.

Author: Gunter Sharp from Atlanta, Georgia
6 October 1998

This powerful, masterfully directed movie shows Harvey Keitel in 2 roles and Maia Morgenstern in 5 roles. The film presents deep-rooted themes interwoven with clever, seamless flashbacks. These universal motifs include: loss of empire (culture), loss of family, loss of homeland, and loss of one's mother, and the resulting bereavement. "Ulysses" is an appropriate title since the protagonist searches for his lost homeland after wandering for many years in foreign lands. The role of Maia M. is deceptively important, as an anima image, as mother, as helper, as rescuer & caretaker & hearth keeper, and as the spirit of new life that is taken away by fate. The themes run forwards and backwards with seamless transitions. An example is at end of the film, at a New Year's dance: the protagonist dances reluctantly with his mother and then more assuredly with another character in a different time frame. The dialogue in this long journey is spoken in different languages: Greek (HK manages to speak some complete sentences), English, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, German. The haunting viola music written by Eleni Karaindrou lends proper atmosphere to the themes. A difficult movie to watch perhaps for young people, but unforgettable for someone who has suffered family and/or homeland losses during wartime.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Interesting art work, no film

Author: dusan-22 from Serbia
28 August 2009

Interesting allegory on Balkan syndrome and very good directing in artistic way, but this is about it. Everything else is a failure. Composition that mostly comprehends directors impression on Balkan phenomena and its reasons and consequences. Role of the film that has been recorded and hidden is probably the formula for Balkan happiness that can't be found. Beginning of the world civilization, beginning of all great wars and conflicts and world in small - these are the Balkans. But no trace, no reason no recipe, no solution. This is good. Very well represented - artistic as the film suppose to be and by all means I do support Theo by that. But ... I don't believe that you can make a film that is going to be slight idea of an expressionist understood only by himself. The film should be artistic way to show the reality to the spectator, an art lover. I have lived most of my life on Balkans, where I was born, among that many years in Greece, but still I cannot follow all the impressions of the director placed in the film. I believe that impressions are for the audience - as a spectator but also as a film maker. All in all, great actor as Harvey Keitel could be used in much better way. The same for the never ending resources on Balkan ideas. 5 out of 10 for Theo.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:


Author: Cosmoeticadotcom ( from United States
22 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos's 1995 film Ulysses' Gaze (To Vlemma Tou Odyssea) is the first of that director's four films that I have seen that is not unequivocally a great work of art. Yes, there are arguments that can be made in favor of that claim, but at 173 minutes in length, especially, it takes the most out of a viewer, especially considering that it's the least poetic of his films I've seen (which include Landscape In The Mist, Eternity And A Day, and Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow). This does not mean it is a bad film, nor that it lacks Angelopoulos's trademark visual poesy; it has that. But, there are some missing narrative elements, some poorly scripted moments, and a too slow dramatic movement, especially in the latter third of the film, which takes place in the city of Sarajevo.

The basic tale is that a nameless exiled Greek-American filmmaker, played by Harvey Keitel (and referred to as 'A' in the DVD credits, and in many reviews, although nowhere in the film is the character's name mentioned), returns to the Balkans after thirty-five years, and is seeking to find three lost reels of footage from the earliest known extant Greek film, made by the Manakis Brothers (Yannakis and Miltos) in 1905. They seem to be near-mythic figures, who represent something akin to what D.W. Griffith was to American cinema, although they were documentarians, logging for decades the travails of the Balkans, and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Keitel's character seems to have more personal reasons for making this sojourn, and several possibilities are hinted at in flashback scenes, wherein Keitel simply wanders into his past, or a dream sequence involving the claimed death of one of the brothers. Keitel speaks mostly in English, while most of the other characters speak in Greek or the other native languages. The film does not rely on typical narrative to reveal Keitel's quest, rather on a barrage of slowly developing images that subsumes the story into an emotional upwelling. Often, the camera of cinematographers Yorgos Arvanitis and Andreas Sinanos slowly pans ahead of Keitel, then back toward him, or pulls away from a scene, turns 90 or 180 degrees, then swivels back and peers even more deeply at whatever scene it just left, as if to signal that what seems the same is different, which pulls a viewer into a closer reckoning of stasis vs. change,

Overall, this is a very good film. It also has a magnificently effective score by Eleni Karaindrou, especially with great viola passages by Kim Kashkashian, which seem almost organically part of Angelopoulos's visuals. Angelopoulos's film scores are perhaps the only ones which are the equal of the great Werner Herzog's films. This film's main flaws, however, lie in its screenplay. The film was penned by Angelopoulos, longtime Fellini and Angelopoulos collaborator Tonini Guerra, Giorgio Silvani, and Petros Markaris, but goes on a good 40 or so minutes too long. Some trimming of more pedestrian scenes by editor Yannis Tsitsopoulos, some neat Ozu-like elisions (which Angelopoulos makes expert use of in other films), and this film would have been a great film, if just shy of a masterpiece, due to several small forced moments of overacting, and soliloquies tinged lavender in their prose: 'If I should but stretch out my hand I will touch you and time will be whole again,' uttered by Keitel. The film came in second at the Cannes Film Festival that year, winning the Grand Prix, not the Palm D'Or, but it has taken a beating from some critics. In this country, the most virulent review came from none other than that noted lover of Spielbergian tripe, Roger Ebert, who among other things, wrote:

What's left after Ulysses' Gaze is the impression of a film made by a director so impressed with the gravity and importance of his theme that he wants to weed out any moviegoers seeking interest, grace, humor, or involvement….It is an old fact about the cinema- known perhaps even to those pioneers who made the ancient footage A is seeking- that a film does not exist unless there is an audience between the projector and the screen. A director, having chosen to work in a mass medium, has a certain duty to that audience. I do not ask that he make it laugh or cry, or even that he entertain it, but he must at least not insult its good will by giving it so little to repay its patience. What arrogance and self-importance this film reveals.

Would that Ebert was so assertive about the vomit that the many Hollywood schlockmeisters he praises put out. Yes, this film is not a laugh riot, but there are some humorous moments, such as Keitel's interactions with an old Albanian woman he lets share a Greek cab with him. As for grace, interest, and involvement? Well, it's there, even if it requires a bit of intellectual cogitation on the part of a viewer, something that most Americans (and American critics) are unwilling to give. This is best illustrated by an anecdote Keitel's character tells, of taking a Polaroid photo of an olive tree that, when he watches develop, shows that the tree was not really there. Yet, we never see this anecdote's stunning imagery play out; it's only related via words, or the imagination, therefore all the more effective, in the way a great film like My Dinner With Andre is. Would that more people had that quality which Angelopoulos so manifestly owns, in the best moments of this work, and his other masterpieces; for then even flawed but excellent films like this would get their proper due.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant...take the ride!

Author: Marlo Bernier ( from Los Angeles
12 March 2004

Seen this film at least 4 times and each time i'm both re-engaged by the scenes with which i'm very familiar, as well as seeing something new.

I could go on about this and that...the must see this film and take the ride yourselves...yes, it's an investment and yes, you have to "let yourselves go", simply plug in and enjoy the Taxidi(journey)!!

Mr Kietels' work is unimpeachable, this i believe is as much his story as it is the story(in-part) of the brothers Manakia...and what a story that think that they were chronicaling some of the most important events the world had yet experienced is in itself pretty incredible.

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